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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Justice Department lawyer in Z Street case a potential witness

The Wall Street Journal reports that the lawyer who until recently was representing the Justice Department in the Z Street lawsuit is a potential witness due to his tenure in the IRS working under Lois Lerner.
From August 2008 until August 2010, Mr. Strelka was a presidential management fellow assigned to the IRS Exempt Organizations division. That's the same period that Z Street says it was told by an IRS agent that its application had been singled out for special scrutiny to see if it comported with Administration policies. Mr. Strelka was thus both Justice's lawyer on the case and potentially a witness.
We say "was" because recently Mr. Strelka was withdrawn as the Justice Department's counsel of record on the Z Street case. A review of court dockets showed that he has also withdrawn from two other cases involving tax-exempt groups, including Judicial Watch's suit against the IRS.
Mr. Strelka confirmed to us that he was off the Z Street case but said he couldn't discuss pending litigation. A Justice Department spokesman said "it is not unusual for attorney assignments to change during the course of litigation" but declined further comment.
Cleta Mitchell, who represents conservative groups who saw their applications for tax-exempt status slow-tracked, says she talked to Mr. Strelka when he was at the IRS starting in June and July of 2010 about a client whose tax-exempt application was delayed. After applying for 501(c)(4) status in October 2009, the client heard nothing until June 2010, when Mr. Strelka asked to see ads the group had run that were critical of Administration health-care policy.
This means Mr. Strelka was directly engaged in the policies at the Exempt Organizations Unit that led to the lawsuits charging the agency with viewpoint discrimination. Under the Rules of Professional Conduct, barring special exceptions, "A lawyer shall not act as advocate at a trial in which the lawyer is likely to be a necessary witness."
Z Street founder Lori Lowenthal Marcus says the group intends to depose Mr. Strelka during discovery—if it ever happens. The IRS recently filed an appeal of a judge's denial of the agency's motion to dismiss the Z Street case, indefinitely delaying discovery and running out the clock on this Administration.
If Mr. Strelka had personal knowledge of the processing of tax-exempt applications for groups like Z Street while he was assigned to the IRS, he should have recused himself from handling the case at Justice.
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton says there is "nothing usual about the way Justice handled this and if the goal [of Mr. Strelka's recent withdrawal] was to inspire confidence in the process, it is likely to have the opposite effect." We look forward to learning what Mr. Strelka knows.
It's a pity that so much of this administration's corruption is likely to remain repressed until long after Hussein Obama retires to become a full-time golfer.

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At 8:17 PM, Blogger Lori Lowenthal Marcus said...

Not only did Strelka work for the IRS, he also worked for the White House Legal Counsel's office during the relevant time frame!


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